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1.4 Adding Output Formats

The output formats in the previous section handle a wide variety of usage, but of course there is always room for more.

From time to time, proposals are made to generate traditional Unix man pages from Texinfo source. However, because man pages have a strict conventional format, creating a good man page requires a completely different source than the typical Texinfo applications of writing a good user tutorial and/or a good reference manual. This makes generating man pages incompatible with the Texinfo design goal of not having to document the same information in different ways for different output formats. You might as well write the man page directly.

As an alternative way to support man pages, you may find the program help2man to be useful. It generates a traditional man page from the ‘--help’ output of a program. In fact, the man pages for the programs in the Texinfo distribution are generated with this. It is GNU software written by Brendan O’Dea, available from

If you are a programmer and would like to contribute to the GNU project by implementing additional output formats for Texinfo, that would be excellent. The way to do this that would be most useful is to write a new back-end for texi2any, our reference implementation of a Texinfo parser; it creates a tree representation of the Texinfo input that you can use for the conversion. The documentation in the source file tp/Texinfo/Convert/ is a good place to start. See Generic Translator texi2any.

Another viable approach is use the Texinfo XML output from texi2any as your input. This XML is an essentially complete representation of the input, but without the Texinfo syntax and option peculiarities, as described above.

If you still cannot resist the temptation of writing a new program that reads Texinfo source directly, let us give some more caveats: please do not underestimate the amount of work required. Texinfo is by no means a simple language to parse correctly, and remains under development, so you would be committing to an ongoing task. At a minimum, please check that the extensive tests of the language that come with texi2any give correct results with your new program.

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